The real debate is not whether to trade Andrew Bynum—rather, it's what do you trade him for?
While I understand the Lakers' desire to unload Pau Gasol's fat $38 million contract—and that still may happen—I have been saying for months that the player who will get them the best return is their best asset, Andrew Bynum.
But before jumping on the Howard-Bynum exchange bandwagon, you have to ask yourself if that deal would be the best one for L.A. long-term or whether it will just appease the Hollywood elite who need to know the Lakers are still the hot ticket in town.
It is no insignificant matter that Howard is coming off of recent surgery to correct a herniated disk in his back. Previously looked upon as an ironman who rarely missed a game in eight years, Howard now has a question mark next to his name and the very real possibility that he may never be the same player.
Most players do not come all the way back from back surgery—though Howard is extremely tough and durable.
Still, should the two teams agree, it would be hard for the Lakers to say no to such a deal. Howard is a dominant force and three-time Defensive Player of the Year. And a Lakers team with Howard, Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol most certainly would serve as a major attraction for bringing in other talent to play with.
So, whether it's a deal between the Lakers and Magic or a deal between L.A. and someone else, the time to do it is now, while Andrew Bynum is healthy. A change of scenery may do him a world of good.
As Bill Plaschke of the Los Angeles Times writes in a column posted July 4:
"Bynum has never really matured here, and last season that immaturity finally infected the locker room as acts of apathy and defiance undermined Coach Mike Brown and divided the team. But this attitude is nothing that a change of scenery and leadership couldn't fix.
"Bynum has never been a consistent force here, including disappearing in a Denver playoff game because, as he admitted later, he just wasn't ready to play. But he increasingly bristled at playing a secondary role to Bryant, and might flourish with increased responsibilities."
The time to trade Andrew Bynum is now. The 24-year-old, 7'0", 285-pound first-time All-Star is arguably the No. 2 big man in the NBA and coming off a breakout season with room to get even better next year.
Consider this: Bynum averaged 18.7 points, 11.8 rebounds and two blocks per game this year, while shooting 56 percent from the floor—becoming the dominating presence under the rim that all Lakers fans have been expecting since the team drafted him straight out of a New Jersey high school in 2005.
What's more, Bynum was healthy in 2011-12, playing in 60 of the Lakers' 66 games. He averaged 35.2 minutes of playing time, missing four games at the start of the year as part of his penalty for clothes-lining former Mavericks point guard J.J. Barea in the 2011 playoffs.
The best trade for Bynum would be to a team that could provide the Lakers with several young, quick, athletic-oriented players—a point guard, small forward and perimeter shooter all sound good to me. There's a lot of teams that would love Bynum manning the low post for the next five to 10 years
As Mitch Kupchak has said, the Lakers need to get better, and he hoped to "hit a home run" in the offseason. The Lakers may still deal Pau Gasol as they try to shed payroll and not have to wait another year to shop the Spaniard.
In a perfect world, the Lakers keep Gasol and move Andrew Bynum, either for Dwight Howard or to another team that will send a talented collection of young reinforcements. Big 24-year-old All-Star centers don't come along every day, and that should entice some GM to pull the trigger on a Lakers deal.
The message to Lakers management could not be any louder: Trade Andrew Bynum now while he's healthy and coveted. If the goal is to "rebuild" the Lakers into title contenders without having to go through the sting of losing seasons, this is one way to accomplish that.
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